Tottenham Hotspur and interim manager Tim Sherwood grabbed a much-needed Premier League victory over Southampton with a bizarre, entertaining 3-2 win. Both sides were seriously depleted, with Spurs fielding a very odd midfield and the Saints running with a makeshift back line, which meant any hint of caution or balance was thrown out the window very early on.
Tottenham fielded a 4-4-2 which included exactly zero defensive midfielders, and Southampton were able to exploit the resultant space early on. Dejan Lovren won the ball in his own half, possession was cycled to Danny Fox on the left, and his run into the centre seemed to utterly discombobulate the visitors. Adam Lallana managed to pull away from the confused Vlad Chiriches, giving him space to receive the pass, turn and shoot past Hugo Lloris from 20 yards.
But although the structural problems in midfield were obvious (Spurs did their best to mitigate the issue by using a high press that made Southampton's look tame), Tottenham were extremely dangerous going forward. They'd already given the Saints a scare before Lallana's opener, when Lovren was forced to clear a Roberto Soldado cross just ahead of what would have been a lethal touch by restored striker Emmanuel Adebayor, but the hosts either failed to heed the warning or simply couldn't do anything about it, and Spurs were soon level.
A nice bit of skill by Erik Lamela allowed Tottenham to spring a counterattack, with Adebayor and Soldado linking up once again. The former Valencia man hared down the left wing before floating in an inviting cross for his strike partner to attack. This time, Lovren couldn't get in the way, and Adebayor smashed an acrobatic volley past the unfortunate Paulo Gazzaniga.
Despite an injury to Moussa Dembele which forced him off for young Nabil Bentaleb early in the second half, Spurs were able to keep up the pressure on Southampton's goal. Jas Hooiveld helped out with the next goal, tucking into his own net while trying to clear a low cross from Danny Rose, and it was becoming more and more clear that the Saints' makeshift defense simply couldn't deal with Tottenham throwing everything forward.
Southampton needed their attacking players to get them back into the match, so they obliged. Lallana made it happen, surging past Michael Dawson to receive a pass in the penalty area, drawing Lloris out of position and then feeding Rickie Lambert to fire into the empty net. The hosts were level just six minutes after going behind -- but their defensive woes would continue.
Adebayor restored Tottenham's advantage in the 64th minute, smashing past Gazzaniga after Kyle Walker's long throw-in proved just too much for Southampton to deal with, and if not for some -- and this is being generous -- laughably awful finishing by Soldado, they would have been out of sight in the next few minutes. But Soldado spurned his hattrick of chances, and the Saints remained in the match.
And the hosts were still dangerous, mostly thanks to Lallana. Lloris saved at the captain's feet after a clever through ball from substitute Gaston Ramirez, and Lallana would have set up 18-year-old Sam Gallagher for the equaliser only to see the teenager foiled by a good save. Lambert then wasted a great chance to equalise when the ball broke loose on a corner, volleying into the ground and over the bar rather than at a virtually unguarded net.
Lambert's chance was to prove the last of the match; Spurs had hung on for a big win.
Southampton starting lineup (4-3-3): Paulo Gazzaniga; Danny Fox (Sam Gallagher 72'), Jas Hooiveld, Dejan Lovren, Calum Chambers; Jack Cork (James Ward-Prowse 60'), Morgan Schneiderlin, Steven Davis (Gaston Ramirez 69'); Jay Rodriguez, Rickie Lambert, Adam Lallana.
Goals: Lallana 13', Lambert 60'.
Tottenham Hotspur starting lineup (4-4-2): Hugo Lloris; Danny Rose, Vlad Chiriches, Michael Dawson, Kyle Walker; Gylfi Sigurdsson, Christian Eriksen; Mousa Dembele , Erik Lamela ; Emmanuel Adebayor, Roberto Soldado .
Goals: Adebayor 25' 64', Hooiveld og 55'.